Perpetual Power Solutions to Save $1 billion in Labor Costs

San Diego Calif. October 29, 2008 -- With more than one hundred million Wireless Sensor Network nodes to be deployed over the next five years, the quest for improved power sources is intensifying, according to ON World.

Advances such as mesh networking enable large scale, self-configuring wireless sensor networks. The power needs of wireless sensors is the current biggest impediment that keeps them from becoming completely autonomous, forcing them to be either tethered to an external power source or have lifecycles that are curtailed by batteries.

Perpetual power solutions such as energy harvesting, super capacitors and rechargeable thin-film batteries promise to reduce labor costs and limit the environmental impact from disposing millions of batteries. ON World calculates that the labor cost from changing batteries for wireless sensors deployed worldwide in the top six markets between 2006 and 2015 (assuming no harvested energy is used) will be $1.1 billion.

"A perpetual power source is essential for many WSN applications, especially for nodes deployed in harsh and dangerous environments," says Mareca Hatler, ON World's director of research. "We are on the verge of new breakthroughs with energy storage and harvesting technologies that are being paired with ultra low power chipsets as well as plug and play software."

While still in an early phase, energy harvesting devices -- that translate abundant sources of energy such as light, heat, and mechanical into electrical energy -- are rapidly being integrated with wireless sensor technologies. Current WSN deployments that use harvested ambient energy include the following:

  • GE Energy's wireless equipment monitoring systems powered by vibration harvesters that are currently deployed in a Norway gas field.
  • Wireless Industrial Technologies' wireless sensor systems powered by thermal energy that monitor production processes in aluminum plants.
  • EnOcean battery-less light switches in thousands of buildings across Europe.
A few of the companies with wireless sensor modules or systems with integrated energy harvesting include AdaptivEnergy (with Texas Instruments), AmbioSystems, Crossbow, EnOcean, KCF Technologies, and MicroStrain. Energy harvesting developers that are targeting wireless sensor applications include Konarka, Perpetua, and Perpetuum, with ATEX certified vibration harvesters that are currently in use by tier 1 manufacturers.

Thin-film batteries are another high-growth innovation area that provides lead-free storage with fast recharges, making these a good fit for energy harvesting. Cymbet has a commercial thin-film battery that--combined with energy harvesting -provides a green, perpetual power source for wireless sensors. Additional thin-film battery creators that are expected to start production within the next year include Excellatron, Infinite Power Solutions, Front Edge Technology, and Oak Ridge Micro-Energy.

The markets that ON World predicts will have the highest penetration rates for perpetual power sources include industrial, buildings, structural monitoring, and agriculture. In 2012, commercial buildings and homes will make up 70.7% of the WSN units sold at this time. However, with up to one hundred dollars per battery change, the industrial sector represents 62.8% of the total potential labor costs.

Based on 400 interviews with end users, vendors and suppliers, ON World's recently published report, "Perpetual Power Solutions for Wireless Sensor Networks," provides actionable market data and analysis on the growing market for energy harvesting and next generation storage solutions, specifically for wireless sensor networking. The report includes 5-year forecasts, return on investment data, in-depth competitor analysis, and dozens of scenarios using ON World's wsnSimulator™ that illustrates the market potential for perpetual power solutions as well as simulating the power and performance of popular WSN radios/protocols such as 802.15.4, ZigBee, Z-Wave, WiFi, and proprietary.

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